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Updated 2001.11.02

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Let us qualify that

First published 1992

The process of adding new events to the Olympics is looking more and more like loading up the only lifeboat on a crowded ship, with some events deemed worthy and others getting tossed. Only last summer, well-connected people in the Olympic movement assured the Voice that events for disabled athletes could not be accommodated because the games were so big that existing sports might be jettisoned even without adding new ones. So what to make of the rash of news reports of other (nondisabled) events under consideration (women’s hockey, curling, golf)? Is the lifeboat full or isn’t it?

It seems to be a matter of exceptions. Though the summer games are officially deemed overcrowded, Atlanta’s Olympic organizers are still asking for golf and whitewater canoeing to be added-- in part, a spokesperson says, because the athletes involved would be few enough to keep the games under the new cap of 10,000 competitors. But “in the winter games, I think it’s generally recognized that the program is a bit thin,” says Richard Pound, Canada’s member of the IOC, “and we’re not as concerned with the ship being as full as in the summer.” American IOC member Anita DeFrantz concurs, saying “no one has to my knowledge ever said that the winter program is full. In fact, the program commission, which deals with the admission of sports, has said to the contrary-- that sports conducted with ice and snow might find their way onto the program.”

Showing just how hard it is to get a straight answer on this question, though, Pound sees gender equity as a reason to add new divisions in winter events, while DeFrantz contradicts him, saying male and female events are more nearly balanced in the winter games. (In any event, women’s hockey has cleared the program commission and is set to be rubber-stamped as a new event in Nagano, Japan in 1998.)

And there is much rancour in the field: Ken Read, a former Olympic skier for Canada, told the IOC last summer, “If curling gets into the Olympics, can bowling, darts and ballroom dancing be far behind?” (A Canadian Olympic Association official retorted, “Ken is not a supporter of many sports that don’t require you to wear boards on your feet.”) The USOC is not above repeating rumours that the fencing, pentathlon, and synchronized-swimming governing bodies are worrying about the future of their events. The International Paralympic Committee is awaiting consideration of its formal request to add disabled divisions in four events, and IPC president Bob Steadward says it would be “hard to believe” if the IOC “turned around and started adding events from other sports” without giving disabled jocks their first medal events at the big show.

The long Olympic leadtimes are an unspoken issue. Though the ‘94 Lillehammer games are locked in stone and Nagano in ‘98 is all but set, nothing will be decided until 1993 for Atlanta and 1994 for the summer games in 2000, giving lobbyists (including local organizing committees, who have almost as much sway as sport governing bodies) ample time to spin the issue from a consideration of athletic relevance to an all-too-familiar contest of expense-account budgets and organizational influence. Is it dystopian to foresee events in a post-millenial Olympiad being brokered by the host city, with, say, corporate-sponsored polo outbidding wheelchair events funded by bake sales? In the words of Lily Tomlin, people tell us we’re too cynical here at Jockbeat, but we say no matter how cynical you are you can never keep up... with the IOC.

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